Location: English Harbour, Antigua

How do 31 strangers become a family? How does a sailboat become a home? If prompted for a formula, I’m not sure I could provide one. You certainly wouldn’t guess that the ingredients may involve sleeping just out of arms reach of 5 other people, washing piles of dishes by hand, getting up at all hours of the night, speaking in strange accents and inside jokes that couldn’t possibly be explained, and embarking on an adventure that nothing could quite prepare you for. Today, as students arrive with varying amounts of sleep deprivation, thrust into a brand new environment, unpacking all of their belongings into their bunks, and meeting new person after new person, they may be too exhausted to think past this very moment. It may be difficult to consider what the finish line looks like if this is only the start. But there’s something in the air. There always is.

Talks of the Pacific and how it may feel to take their first breaths underwater. A shared driving force: the desire for adventure. A tangible excitement leaving smiles plastered across each face and an ever-present hum of laughter emanating from Vela. First experiences doing the elbow-deep sweep in the dishy pit, sharpening hand-eye coordination in the gopher hole, pretending to be pirates swabbing the deck on the deckie team, and just taking it all in. So while I don’t know the formula exactly, I know it is inevitable. As a past student myself, I remember looking back at the initial days onboard and thinking, look how far we’ve come. Look how seemingly randomly the cards were stacked before they unfolded in the way they did. Before Vela became my favorite home, and a strange cast of characters became my closest friends in the world before we each grew and changed in confidence, curiosity, and capabilities.

Right now, talking on deck, in the salon, or at the bow – students hypothesize about what will be the greatest part of this adventure. “Swimming with Mantas!” Surely that. “Crossing the Pacific” Or that. “The Galapagos” That. “The Panama Canal” That too. “Crazy hikes!” “Sunsets!” “Skies scattered with stars!” That, that, and that as well.

But I’ll let you in on a secret. It won’t be any of those “that’s” sure, they will all be stories to perk up the ears of grandkids one day or gather a crowd at a high school reunion. They will be beautiful moments that you couldn’t forget if you tried. But they won’t be what makes this trip what it is. It’ll be the time spent dancing (in the rain or otherwise) because it would be rude not to join the earth in spinning. It’ll be going to a fully stocked grocery store and standing under the fluorescent lights (trust me). Nights spent sharing stories and secrets, letting the ocean eavesdrop. Searching for green flash sunsets and debating if they’re real (they are). Watching the saying “two weeks on a boat is two years on land” come to life as we reach a level of closeness currently only reserved for our favorite friends. Swimming in water that extends for miles beneath us. The unflinching, unchanging horizon. The moment it changes. Dishy vs. Deckie wars. Bartering snacks. Mastering the art of the morning wake-up. A million moments that we can’t begin to explain to those back at home (but we promise we’ll try!) Ultimately, it’s the people. It’s always the people. And based on laughing until I cried tonight, I’d say we’ve got quite the group. So let’s get started!

Meet the Staff:
Tom – Skipper, Medic, PSCT Instructor, If You Peel His Leg Hair, You Can Control Him Like A Marionette (Think Ratatouille), Defaults To Nautical Miles Wreaking Havoc On Vela Staff’s Trivia Prowess
Smash – Chief Mate, Program Manager, Dive Instructor, Anatomically Correct Skull (It’s In Medical Textbooks), Professional Sailor That Wants To Learn To Sail
Matt – Mate, Medic, Dive Instructor, Leadership Intern, Non-Member Of The Turbo Team, Keeps Asking To Drink Water From The Hose Like A Dog?
Steph – Dive Instructor, Oceanography Instructor, Considers Salted To Be The Standard Form of Butter, Created A Butter System That Is Built On A House Of Cards, Does Laundry Every Day Because She Didn’t Pack Enough Clothes
Drew – Mate, Seamanship Instructor, If You’re Wondering If It’s The Case, It Is, Innit, Fond of Goats
Dylan – Marine Biology Instructor, Underlord, Dirtiest Mullet, Most Aerodynamic Haircut, Pertineer-er
Allie – Mate, Medic, Leadership Instructor, Bloginator, Haters Are Mad That She Is Able To Experience Childlike Whimsy

** To note: students have turned in their phones for the first seven days of the program! They’re not ignoring your texts!